Presentation on theme: "Declared To Be Free: Teaching About The Amistad Trial Tiffany Middleton & Howard Kaplan, American Bar Association Division for Public Education Michigan."— Presentation transcript:
Declared To Be Free: Teaching About The Amistad Trial Tiffany Middleton & Howard Kaplan, American Bar Association Division for Public Education Michigan /Great Lakes Regional Social Studies Conference October 18, 2013
A History of the Amistad Captives, by John Barber, Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Timeline 1787: The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person. Article I, U.S. Constitution
Timeline Prohibition of international slave trade: Denmark 1807 – British Empire 1808 – United States 1820 – Spain 1853 – Brazil Cuba
Timeline Abolition of domestic slavery: 1794 – France (reintroduced 1802) 1804 – Haiti (independence) 1834 – British Empire 1865 – United States 1886 – Cuba 1888 – Brazil
A History of the Amistad Captives, by John Barber, Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. 1839
“Mural No. 2, The Court Scene,” one of three murals painted by Hale Woodruff, in 1939, in commemoration of the 100 th anniversary of the Amistad mutiny. Image courtesy of Talladega College
Consider: How are rights discussed? What rights? What rights claims are being made or denied? Do you think the claims were persuasive?
“Keep Cool” The Colored American, November 2, 1839 “ We have been highly pleased, for some weeks past, with the independent and fearless tone of the N.Y. Sun, while discussing the rights and wrongs of the Amistad affair.... Ever since the capture of the Amistad, and the confinement of the Africans, the editors of these latter papers have been growling and firing volley upon volley of abuse from their smut-machines upon these men, because, forsooth, they had dared, after having been stolen from their native land, and torn from the arms of their wives and children, and forced on board a slave-ship, being bound in irons and otherwise cruelly treated, to break their shackels and assert their “inalienable rights to life, LIBERTY,” etc.”
Plea of Cinque and the other Mende captives, November 19, 1839, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut ... and still of right are and ought to be free, and not slaves... ... and being of right free as aforesaid were incited by the love of liberty natural to all men, and by the desire of returning to their families and kindred, to take possession of said vessel, while navigating the high seas as aforesaid near said Island of Cuba, as they had right to do, with the intent to return therein to their native country, or to reach an asylum in some free State where Slavery did not exist, in order that they might enjoy their liberty under the protection of its government...”
Judge Andrew Judson’s decision (excerpts), U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut GEDNEY et al. v. L'AMISTAD. ... These Africans come in person, as our law permits them to do, denying this right. … If, by their own laws, they cannot enslave them, then it follows, of necessity, they cannot be demanded. When these facts are known by the Spanish minister, he cannot but discover that the subjects of his queen have acquired no rights in these men. They are not the property of Spain. His demand must be withdrawn.”
Supreme Court arguments of John Quincy Adams (excerpts) ... The moment you come, to the Declaration of Independence, that every man has a right to life and liberty, an inalienable right, this case is decided. I ask nothing more in behalf of these unfortunate men, than this Declaration....”
Supreme Court opinion (excerpts) ... and the United States are bound to respect their rights as much as those of Spanish subjects. The conflict of rights between the parties under such circumstances, becomes positive and inevitable, and must be decided upon the eternal principles of justice and international law.... there could be no doubt of the right of such American citizens to litigate their claims... ... never could have intended to take away the equal rights of all foreigners, ... there does not seem to us to be any ground for doubt, that these negroes ought to be deemed free; and that the Spanish treaty interposes no obstacle to the just assertion of their rights.”
“Appeal to the Friends of Liberty.” New York Commercial Advertiser, September 5, ... Under these circumstances, several friends of human rights have met to consult upon the case of these unfortunate men, and have appointed the undersigned a committee to employ interpreters, able counsel, and take all the necessary means to secure the rights of the accused....” Simeon S. Jocelyn, 34 Wall street. Joshua Leavitt, 143 Nassau street. Lewis Tappan, 122 Pearl street. New York, Sept. 4, 1839.